After a year or two of enforced absence it seems safe to assume that many Islanders will be itching to get back to the ski slopes this winter (including me and many of my colleagues). The thought of returning to the snow, the mountain air, and a cheese-heavy diet is really exciting.
It is important not to get too carried away, especially when one’s skiing might best be described as ‘rusty’; statistically, skiing remains one of the most dangerous sports that you can participate in. Given that you are basically hurtling down a mountain with a couple of planks strapped to your feet, this is no surprise. In the vast majority of accidents the injuries suffered are relatively minor; cuts, scrapes, sprains etc. Unfortunately, however, some people suffer serious, potentially life-threatening or life-changing injuries.
We thought it might be sensible to set out some practical tips to help those heading to the mountains to minimise the risk of accidents and pointers as to what to do should the worst happen.
The International Ski Federation (or Fédération Internationale de Ski, if you’re feeling continental!) has issued 10 Rules for Conduct for all skiers and snowboarders to follow. In summary, you should:
Respect others on the slopes;
Control and adapt your speed to your personal ability, terrain and prevailing conditions;
Choose a route which does not endanger yourself and others;
Ensure that you provide enough space to anyone that you are overtaking;
Check both up and down the piste before setting off;
Avoid stopping on the piste in narrow areas or where visibility is poor;
Keep to the side of the piste when ascending or descending on foot;
Respect all signs and piste markings;
Provide assistance and/or first aid to anyone in need; and
Exchange your name and contact details in the event that you are involved in, or witness an accident.
Skiers and snowboarders are expected to be familiar with, and to respect, these rules. One key thing to bear in mind is that however careful you are, you are to an extent reliant on the good sense of others and that cannot always be guaranteed; you have to be prepared for other people to be idiots! The rules provide guidance as to the standard of conduct that is expected of all those using the mountain. They do not override your duty to use common sense, stay in control, maintain a proper lookout and avoid a collision. If someone fails to conduct themselves appropriately on a ski slope, they could find themselves facing civil, or even criminal, liability in the event of an accident.
Make sure that you have all the equipment that you need in order to ski safely. Your equipment needs may vary depending upon your ability, the terrain and the prevailing conditions. Make sure that you use a reputable hire shop who will measure you and assist you in choosing the right gear. The hire shop is under an obligation to provide you with equipment which is suited to your body and your ability so be honest about your weight and skiing ability!
Recent research from ABTA (the UK Association for tour operators and travel agents) suggests that more than 3.5 million British adults have admitted to failing to take out insurance before heading to the slopes. Failure to take out an adequate insurance policy will leave you at risk of footing expensive bills if you have to be rescued from the slopes, are hospitalised abroad or have to be flown home by air ambulance. You could find yourself in even worse trouble if you cause an injury to someone else and do not have insurance to cover your legal costs and any damages. The cost of an insurance premium is a drop in the ocean compared to such costs!
Before buying a policy makes sure that you check the small print to make sure that the policy provides sufficient coverage for:
Third party exposure;
Mountain recovery/air ambulances and;
Damage to and loss of equipment.
What if the worst happens?
Even if you follow these rules to the letter, the risk of accidents occurring whilst skiing cannot be avoided. In the event that you, a friend, or relative is involved in an accident you should:
Take details of all those involved/who witnessed the accident;
Seek immediate medical assistance;
Report the accident to the police and obtain a copy of the police report;
Gather all available evidence, including:
Photographs of the scene, injuries and equipment;
Statements from those involved and witnesses;
Details of the prevailing conditions;
Receipts for any expenses incurred; and
Report the accident to your insurer without delay.
Skiing is inherently dangerous, as well as being great fun. There is no way that you can avoid any risk. Best practice is to follow the rules, use your common sense and always be alive to the fact that others on the mountain may not be as sensible as you! Most importantly of all, make sure that you have a comprehensive insurance policy which covers you for any and all activities that you might undertake. If you suffer an accident whilst skiing, you may be able to claim compensation if the accident was caused by another skier, faulty equipment, poor instruction or negligence on the part of your tour operator. Equally, if you are at fault, you might face a claim against you.
Should you wish to discuss a potential claim, please contact the experienced Personal Injury Team at BCR Law on +44 (0) 1534 760860.